Sunday, August 14, 2011

Build a Winter / Summer Grow Table

Building a Winter / Summer grow table is easy. It can be covered with thick plastic sheeting in the winter and shade cloth during the summer months.

...... .... All you need is...
.... ......1. Plastic Shelving
........ ..2. 1/2" PVC Pipe
........ ..3. A cutter for the PVC Pipe
....... ...4. Zip Ties
....... ...5. Shade Cloth or Thick 4 or 6 mil Plastic Sheeting

The plastic shelves can be purchased at most hardware stores or even at Wal-Mart. They cost on average $14 depending on size.

Instead of stacking the unit as shown, the shelves can easily be used as tables. You will need solid surface to grow your plants. The purpose is to keep out air circulation that will dry out your potted plants. If your shelves have a mesh or grid surface, cover the table top with a black plastic trash bag.

If you are using more than one table, you will need to zip tie the table legs together before setting up with the PVC pipe. When the legs are not tied together, the PVC pipe will push the tables apart.

Insert the PVC pipe into the leg hole on the table and bend over to the other side. Insert into the other leg hole.

Cover with Nursery Shade Cloth that provides 30%-40% shade. This cannot be purchased at the hardware store. Shade cloth that is available at the hardware store is only 75% shade, which is too dark for growing plants. I purchase my shade cloth online at: They have very good prices and will build your shade cloth exactly to your specifications. I always purchase mine knitted, hemmed, and with grommets. The hem helps the shade cloth keep longer and the grommets make it easy to tie down the material.

Here is how my seedlings look inside the grow table in the heat of summer. Without this filtered light, my seedlings would fry! I also installed a mister that hangs from the PVC pipe above.

In the wintertime, lay down a plant heating mat and hang C-7 or C-9 Christmas tree lights for warmth. Cover the PVC and tables with 4 mil - 6 mil thick plastic sheeting. However, when the plastic is thicker, it allows in less light. Notice how you cannot see through this plastic. Plastic sheeting can be purchased a most hardware stores.

For cold climates, use 2 layers of clear plastic visqueen. This can be purchased online at Large bubble wrap is also recommended for greenhouse insulation. This is a picture of my friend, Brian, in Tahoe. His greenhouse is transparent and is made with visqueen. He also used LED Christmas tree lights instead of the large variety.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pond Potting Soil Loam and Containers

What do I use to plant
pond plants?
It's a toss up between using baskets or no-holes containers. Baskets are great, because they allow the water and fish nutrients to flow through and reach the roots. However, it can work so well that the roots will grow straight through the the basket mesh. I choose to plant with no holes containers, because it offers more control.

The best pond plant soil mix is not found in stores.

Mix together:
1 part Decomposed Granite
1 part Steer Manure Blend

Where to purchase the mix...

Decomposed Granite (or DG) can be purchased at a sand and gravel yard. Most locations will deliver right to your home or business. Heavy soil is necessary for root structure, growth, and for a clean pond. Light and fluffy potting soil will not work, because particles will float to the water surface.

If you do not have deomposed granite available, a good substitute is a heavy rocky soil... such as top soil mixed with small pea gravel or aquarium gravel. Heavy clay soil mixed with small gravel will also work. Plain clean kitty litter (not the type intended for oil spils and with no purfumes or fillers) mixes well with the soil and is a good substitute for pea gravel. The ingredients can be purchased at any large hardware garden nursery center.

Steer Manure Blend can be purchased at any garden center such as Lowe's or Home Depot. You can purchase prepackaged pond plant soil, but it is light weight and is the consistency of kitty litter. Light weight soil also spills easily and will not hold down plants such as water lily.

Which fertilizer is best?

Buy cheap pond plant fertilizer and you will achieve cheap results. I use a commercial grade 13-13-13. For the home I recommend Highland Rim or Laguna pond plant fertilizer. Fertilizer can be tricky. Too little and the plants will not bloom as much as desired. Too much and the plants will expel what they do not use into the water. The result will be algae that spreads across the pond within one week. However, there are algaecides that are safe for fish and plants and will counteract this problem. Water hyacinth will also help (but not cure) a severe algae attack.

How to add fertilizer:

1. Apply fertilizer apply at the bottom of the container
2. Add soil
3. Add the pond plant
4. Then and then the remaining soil

Fertilizer helpful tips: The best time to fertilize is in early spring; such as March or April. If you are using a container with holes, line the bottom of the container with newspaper to prevent soil and fertilizer from spilling out. By the time the paper decomposes, the fertilizer and soil will swell and remain in the container. Be sure the tender roots do not touch the fertilizer. Never add fertilizer straight in the water. This is a recipe for disaster and will create a huge green sludgy bog. Also, only use fertilizer designed for pond plants. Other fertilizers will not be as effective and are prone to harm both fish and plants.

Find out more about pond plants and where to buy big and healthy plants at